(TMU) — One of the hottest astronomical mysteries of the century is a phenomenon known as Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs), which refers to the incomprehensibly powerful extragalactic energy emissions observed as milliseconds-long pulses of light.
Because of their transient nature—as well as the vast distances involved—scientists have struggled to study FRBs and determine their true origin and meaning. A new landmark discovery may localize an FRB with such exactitude that scientists can finally determine whether the phenomenon is natural or a product of sentient communication.
Scientists have been actively cataloguing FRBs—which, incredibly, are believed to release approximately the same amount of energy in 1 millisecond as our sun does over the course of a century—since 2007. Since this time, they have identified 85 of the mysterious bursts, which are usually seen as “one-off” events but occasionally take the form of “repeaters” that duplicate the same signal in the same location.
The new one-off discovery of FRB 121102—the light from which has traveled for nearly four billion years to reach us—constitutes only the second time a fast radio burst has been tracked to its home galaxy. The team has pinpointed not only the home galaxy, but the specific region within that galaxy, which happens to be near the center—and likely close to—a supermassive black hole. Bannister’s team has ruled out the black hole as the source of the emission.
Lead author of the team that made the discovery, Keith Bannister, from Australia’s national science agency, stated:
“If we were to stand on the Moon and look down at the Earth with this precision, we would be able to tell not only which city the burst came from, but which postcode and even which city block. This is the big breakthrough the field has been waiting for since astronomers discovered fast radio bursts in 2007.”
Bannister and his Australian-led international team used the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope, which constitutes a network of 36 individual radio telescopes linked together. But in order for the scientists to glean such precise information about the FRB’s specific location, the team used a new technique that triangulated their findings with the slightly different arrival time data collected from two other telescopes—the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile measured its distance with the Keck telescope in Hawaii and the Gemini South telescope in Chile.
The team’s article on the discovery also paves the way for further research. In addition to potentially revolutionizing the way scientists study FRBs, the characteristics of this particular FRB in this particular galaxy will afford scientists a new way to study the non-luminous gas of vast intergalactic mediums, a poorly understood concept.
“The next step,” says co-author Ryan Shannon, “is to see if other one-off bursts are like FRB 180924 (originating in massive galaxies) or if they are more like the first repeater. I think they will be like 180924, and we will be able to open up a new window on the nearly invisible cosmic web.”
FRB research has accelerated in recent years. In 2017, astronomers embarked on the Breakthrough Listen Project, a $100 million endeavor that marshalled state of the art artificial intelligence (AI) to search for signs of life in the universe. The effort produced the discovery of 21 FRBs in the dwarf galaxy FRB 121102 in only an hour.
Most scientists take a moderately conservative approach to their speculation on the origin of FRBs, pointing at magnetars or magnetic oscillations of neutron stars as possible explanations. Other hypotheses include pulsar collapses and black hole collisions.
Other scientists say that FRBs could be the ideal way for advanced species to communicate or broadcast their existence over vast distances. Astrophysicists Avi Loeb and Manasvi Lingam have proposed the idea that FRBs may originate from alien solar sails, as such a propulsive source (widely viewed as a realistic form of interstellar travel) would require immense amounts of energy.
The Notorious ‘Gateway to Hell’ May Finally Be Sealed, Turkmenistan’s President Says
The Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan has long been host to what has been dubbed the “Gateway to Hell” – a massive hole in the ground that has been smoldering for about five decades.
However, the country’s government is now moving to finally extinguish the blazing natural Darvaza gas crater which lies in the center of the huge Karakum desert.
This isn’t the first time that President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has spoken of extinguishing the so-called portal to the underworld. In 2010, the strongman leader also ordered that experts investigate how best to put out the flames, which have been raging since a mishandled Soviet drilling expedition in 1971.
To prevent a disaster resulting from the spread of dangerous fumes, Soviet authorities decided it would be best to burn off the gas by setting it alight.
As a result, the 229-foot (70 meter) wide and 65-foot (20-meter) deep crater has been ablaze ever since, drawing tourists to the former Soviet country.
In 2018, the government officially renamed the pit the “Shining of Karakum.”
This week, Berdymukhamedov decried how the gas crater “negatively affects both the environment and the health of the people living nearby,” reports AFP.
“We are losing valuable natural resources for which we could get significant profits and use them for improving the well-being of our people,” he added in the televised statement, noting that officials must “find a solution to extinguish the fire.”
Turkmenistan is known to possess the fourth-largest known reserve of natural gas in the world, reports VICE, and its economy is dependent on the export of the raw resource.
North Korea Claims It Invented Burritos in 2011 as Mexican Food “Booms”: Report
English-language tabloid newspapers are abuzz about the latest alleged bombshell from North Korea – that the country’s late ruler and father of the current ruler is being touted as the inventor of the beloved North American dish, the burrito.
According to The Sun, North Korean official news outlet Rodong Sinmun has made the implausible claim that the U.S.-Mexican staple food was invented by Kim Jong Il, who came up with the idea of what he called a “wheat wrap” in 2011, shortly before he suffered heart failure.
The newspaper added that current ruler Kim Jong Un has taken a “meticulous interest” in the food, which is generating “booming” interest among the population.
The dish can also be seen in official footage circulating online, with Pen News airing clips showing a vendor selling the food outside of Kumsong Food Factory in the country’s capital, Pyongyang. Children and soldiers can be seen eagerly devouring the wraps, which apparently contained vegetables including cabbage and carrots.
Meat on a rotating spit, similar to the kind used for tacos al pastor or shawarma wraps, can also be seen in some of the footage, reports Yahoo! News.
The footage also shows a billboard of former ruler Kim Jong Il smiling while standing in a kitchen alongside workers preparing the tubular delicacy.
North Korea has been submerged in food insecurity and famine-like conditions as a result of decades of sanctions imposed on the country by world powers keen on preventing the country from developing its nuclear energy and weapons programs. The precarious conditions faced by civilians was exacerbated by the pandemic and accompanying health measures.
In October, a U.S. rights investigator blasted the sanctions as inhumane and primarily impacting ordinary citizens in the country.
“People’s access to food is a serious concern and the most vulnerable children and elderly are at risk of starvation,” said Tomas Ojea Quintana, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), as North Korea is officially called. He added that citizens are placed in the unjust position of having “to choose between fear of hunger” and fear of the pandemic thanks to global apathy over ongoing sanctions.
One can only hope that the burrito news is a sign that conditions may be slightly improving for average citizens in the DPRK.
According to popular lore, the burrito grew popular along the U.S.-Mexican border when street vendors used donkeys, or burros, to carry and sell large flour tortillas filled with meat, beans, and vegetables to workers in the area.
Since then, the food item has exploded in popularity in the United States and across the world as a convenient and delicious food, and is often seen as a symbol of Mexican gastronomy despite the dish’s relative obscurity in much of Mexico.
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